Review: Hearts – more great comics for children from Toon Books
By Thereza Rowe
Toon Books make some magnificent comics for children, designed to be both fantastic pieces of excitement for new and emerging readers, and a great educational aid, helping those of us in primary schools deliver a message to parents and some teachers reluctant to allow comics into the classroom, and that message is a simple one, that comics are natural literacy builders.
Children have been reading and enjoying comics for as long as comics have been around, and Toon Books really is leading the way in creating wonderful comics to be cherished in and out of the classroom.
Having said all that, Hearts is something different for Toon Books, taking a slightly more surreal position, sitting very, very close to illustration, blurring those dividing lines more and more. But that’s almost immaterial, as the actual story is a thing of weird beauty, something some children surely wont get, but those that do will adore the simplicity of the tale, the silliness of the tale, and the really colourful, really strong design-led artwork inside.
The tale is so simple, poor Penelope the Fox has lost her heart, having dropped it into the ocean (“oops!”) and the journey she undertakes to recover it takes her through all manner of weird and wonderful experiences, meeting sharks, dolphins, and valentine giving birds whom all conspire to keep her heart moving on, passing from one to the other, just out of Penelope’s reach until it comes to rest in a palace of cats, a feline Carrollian Wonderland.
The chase seems in vain, her heart lost forever until she takes advice and guidance from a cart-wheeling cat that just happens to be spinning by on the roof of a London bus…
That should give you something of a feel of Hearts, it’s something of a departure for Toon Books, with Rowe throwing a loads of very brilliant and slightly surreal imagery at the page. Indeed the Lewis Carroll comparisons are apt, there’s that sense of an imagination firing in all directions, of worlds of strange creatures, where normal rules no longer apply, where the illustrations are perfectly in keeping with the strangeness of the adventure.
As an adult reading this to a child I can just imagine he fun I’m going to have pointing out all of the strange events going on, as well as drawing the reader’s eyes to all of the bright colours, strong shapes, and interesting characters across each page. Putting myself in the child’s position I think some simply wont get it (fair enough, something this strong and distinctive will never be eveyone’s cup of tea) but those that are up for it should be entranced by the visuals, the bold colours, the quirky and arresting visuals with so many different shapes and styles butting up against each other. Add in the surreal nature of the tale and I think this is one that will entrance readers.
The prevailing message here is one of holding your heart close, but never being afraid to give it away for those in need, a lovely little message packed into the end of a very strange, very impressive comic for new readers.